Hair Loss in Women

Female Pattern Hair Loss

Since females carry the same genes for baldness as their father and brothers, you may be wondering why women don’t bald as frequently or with the same severity or pattern as men. The reason is that females produce only a tiny amount of Androgen or male hormone. Women with pattern hair loss may have an unusual “sensitivity” to the very low levels of male hormone, normally present in females. Accordingly, in many women, female pattern thinning is not caused by an excess of male hormone, but rather by an “Androgen sensitivity”. Very rarely, a woman may develop abnormally high levels of male hormone; these women will have a male pattern of hair loss similar to their father and brothers, along with other obvious signs of androgen excess. There are also several less understood genetically related factors that can impact hair loss in women.

In contrast with male pattern hair loss, female pattern thinning is more commonly associated with other exacerbating factors such as thyroid disease, iron deficiency or poor protein intake. The hair loss pattern seen in women is also different than that seen in men, being more oval and preserving the hairline area. The Ludwig classification of female pattern hair loss is shown above.

Telogen Effluvium in Women

Many women also experience Telogen Effluvium, which is rarely seen in men. Telogen Effluvium occurs when large numbers of hair follicles prematurely cycle, entering the Telogen phase; this usually occurs in response to some physiologic change (e.g. medication change, fad diets, severe weight loss, after childbirth, etc.). This hair growth cycling abnormality frequently causes dramatic shedding when the dormant Telogen hairs begin to grow again, usually three months following the physiologic trigger. See Hair Growth Cycle for a detailed description. In some women, their follicles are hypersensitive to numerous triggers, causing constant Telogen Effluvium episodes. This condition is referred to as Chronic Telogen Effluvium and may be improved with lifestyle change and medication.